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Utah Football: State of In-State Recruiting

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Most Utah fans thought recruiting would improve with the move to the Pac-12, but how much has it, especially in state?

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Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011, and most fans thought the move to a major conference would bring an uptick in recruiting, and it has, but Utah has continued to miss out on some of the most high-profile in-state prospects. With the the 2015 class now signed and sealed, Block U takes stock of in-state recruiting for Utah in the Pac-12 era, focusing on the four- and five- star players and where they ended up.

2011:

There was one consensus four-star prospect in Utah in the 2011 class, according to the 24/7 Composite ranking, running back Harvey Langi. The Bingham standout chose Utah over USC, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, and BYU. However, after returning from his mission, Langi transferred to BYU where he recorded 14 tackles at linebacker in the 2014 season.

4-star or better recruits: 1

Utah signees: 1 (later 0 after transfer to BYU following LDS mission)

2012:

There were three consensus four-star prospects in the state of Utah in the 2012 class, according to the 24/7 Composite ranking. The top rated player was defensive end/outside linebacker Troy Hinds, who chose BYU. Outside linebacker Jared Afalava chose Nebraska. Offensive guard Brandon Fanaika chose Stanford.

4-star or better recruits: 3

Utah signees: 0

2013:

Quarterback Cooper Bateman was the only consensus four-star player from the state of Utah in 2013, according to the 24/7 Composite ranking. Bateman chose to attend Alabama, where he is one of the favorites to take over signal calling duties for the Crimson Tide in the 2015 season.

4-star or better recruits: 1

Utah signees: 0

2014:

In the 2014 class, there were three consensus four-star players from the state of Utah, according to the 24/7 Composite ranking. The top player was tight end Dalton Schultz, who chose to attend Stanford. Defensive tackle Bryan Mone signed with Michigan. The final four-star prospect, offensive tackle Jackson Barton, chose Utah over Michigan and Oklahoma. Both of Barton's parents were athletes at Utah. Barton committed roughly two years prior to National Signing Day, and he enrolled early at Utah. There was never a doubt that Barton would end up at Utah.

4-star or better recruits: 3

Utah signees: 1

2015:

2015 was a banner year for in-state talent in Utah. The class included five-star outside linebacker Osa Masina, who chose USC. Masina has a brother on the Utah football team (Uaea Masina) and comes from a family of big Utah fans. Four-star inside linebacker/defensive end Porter Gustin also chose USC. The final four-star prospect (according to the 24/7 Composite ranking) is offensive tackle Andre James, who chose UCLA.

Since joining the Pac-12, Utah has missed out on the one consensus five-star prospect in Masina and only signed two of the ten four-star prospects (nabbing Langi initially and Barton). The Utes also lost five of the four- or five-star players to other Pac-12 schools (two to USC, two to Stanford, and one to UCLA).

It is challenging to move up in the Pac-12 standings when Utah is losing highly talented in-state prospects to conference rivals. Utah's three projected starting linebackers for the 2015 season (Jared Norris, Gionni Paul, and Jason Whittingham) are all seniors, so missing out on talented linebackers like Masina and Gustin really hurts because either of them could have filled in very well for the graduating starters.

Offensive tackle was a big need in 2015 and beyond with Jeremiah Poutasi declaring early for the NFL Draft. Starting right tackle J.J. Dielman performed admirably, but most scouts project him as more of an interior offensive lineman. Missing on James means a player at a position of need was lost to a Pac-12 South rival (UCLA).

Schultz would have been able to step in this year to replace tight end Westlee Tonga who graduated (and could have helped fill in last season for Jake Murphy).

Bateman has not seen action at Alabama and could have provided a solid piece at quarterback, a position Utah has struggled at in the Pac-12.

The 2016 class does not have any early consensus four-star recruits in Utah (though it is still early in the recruiting process for 2016). Developing under-the-radar players has been Utah's modus operandi for a long time, but it is becoming more and more difficult to find hidden gems with the advent of sites like Hudl. Additionally, playing in the Pac-12, Utah faces more elite athletes than they ever did in the Mountain West.

Utah needs to start keeping more talented in-state players home if they want to move up from fifth in the Pac-12 South, a position they have been in every year expect for 2011 (when they finished fourth). Some coaches talk about "building a fence" around their state as a metaphor for keeping in-state kids home. Will Utah win every recruiting battle against the likes of USC and Stanford? Certainly not, but that doesn't mean the Utes shouldn't pull out the stops to try. Utah basketball head coach Larry Krystkowiak went head-to-head with Arizona and UCLA this past season for Jakob Poeltl and Brekkott Chapman and beat them. Utah's football team also needs to start winning a few battles, especially within the borders of its own state. The big question for the future of the Utah football program becomes: If the best are leaving Utah, how can Utah expect to be the best?